Today, we meet Emma Lander, an ACBA and CSI Analyst from Bournemouth, England, who recently completed The Business Analyst Blueprint® certification program while simultaneously transitioning into a new career.
What we love about Emma’s story is how she used The Business Analyst Blueprint® to hit the ground running in her new career as a CSI Analyst.
In this interview, you’ll discover:
- How Emma used the tools and workbooks she learned in The Business Analyst Blueprint® to hit the ground running in her new role from day one.
- How Emma gained clarity on the role of a business analyst even though her title isn’t a BA.
- The specific skillsets Emma has found to be the most helpful in her day-to-day role.
- The difference between simply obtaining certification and gaining tangible experience and a wealth of knowledge through The Business Analyst Blueprint®.
Laura Brandenburg: Hello. My name is Laura Brandenburg here with Bridging the Gap and here today with Emma Lander, who is from Bournemouth, in the UK. I hope I got that right. And she is a continuous service improvement automation analyst. Which is super awesome in the financial services industry. Emma, it’s so great to have you here. Thank you for joining us today.
Emma Lander: Thank you for having me.
Laura Brandenburg: Emma, you were part of the spring 2021 session of The Business Analyst Blueprint®. That kicked off just earlier this year in January 2021. Can you just share a little bit more about where you were in your career at that time and what you were looking for out of your investment in the program?
Emma Lander: Yeah, sure. At that time I was in a different role in a different company. I had been hired to do a specific role within it. But actually, when I got there, it sort of became clear that that role was changing quite a lot. For a while, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I spoke to a few people about it and then one of my friends said it kind of sounds like you’re doing business analysis. And I thought, okay. I’ve heard of business analysis, but I didn’t really know anything about it, what would it entail, or anything like that.
I just hopped online to do a bit of research around BAs and what they do and I thought, oh yeah, there’s definitely some; I was kind of doing a little bit of project management, a little bit of BA work. I found I was really enjoying it. I kind of started exploring a bit more online and came across, I want to say it was a Bridging the Gap blog post, and I think it was “100 Reasons to be a BA” or “50 Reasons.” I’m pretty sure it’s 100 Reasons.
Laura Brandenburg: I think we have one on 42 Reasons to Start a Business Analyst Career. So that might be the one you’re thinking of.
Emma Lander: Yep, that one. I just remember reading through it and kind of checking each thing off, like, yes, this sounds right. This sounds like exactly what I’m looking for. Until that point, I’ve kind of just been exploring different career paths and not really managing to settle into something.
From there I decided to take the BA Essentials Master Class, just the smaller course just to see. I kind of just wanted to test the water and see if this is actually right. And this was much less of an investment to put down. It just seemed like a good thing to do. I sat through that and actually really enjoyed that and thought, I think that was kind of the point where I thought, yes, I think I’m settled on this and I want to explore the BA world a bit more.
It was about the time I made the decision to invest in the proper qualification was about the time I also changed jobs and went into this new CSI role, which is the one that I’m in now.
Laura Brandenburg: That was a big time then. You were changing jobs, starting a big program. What was going through your mind?
Emma Lander: It was a little bit daunting to start with. I think it was the end of February that I changed roles, which I think is about when we kicked off was January or February.
Laura Brandenburg: Probably early February, somewhere in there. We change it a little bit each year.
Emma Lander: It was kind of full on, but actually going through the course, I think it really helped me to kind of hit the ground running and maybe be a bit more effective in this role than I otherwise would have been because I felt like I was almost having a head start because I had these workbooks that I was handing in and I was able to use the projects that you’re doing at work. It was sort of like someone was holding my hand through the projects a bit. It was nice.
Laura Brandenburg: Do you feel like getting the new job prompted you to join the program? How did that work for you? Or was it a detractor, like, oh; we hear a lot of people say maybe I should wait until I’m in the new job or I’ve had a few months in the job. I’m kind of interested in how that decision played out for you.
Emma Lander: It was more I made the decision…I knew in my head that I wanted to do the course and then this job kind of came up and it was, this feels like it’s come up at the right time. And so I thought, well, I could delay one or the other. But, actually, it almost felt like the universe was saying this is the right path because the course came up, that came up and it just felt like the right thing to do them both at the same time.
Laura Brandenburg: It sounds like the timing of the modules lined up for you as well.
Emma Lander: Yes.
Emma Lander: The business process, the process flow one, which was the first one we did, that was great because I had some minor experience in process mapping. It was a comfortable introduction into it. That was something I could bring into the new role straight away. I was learning BPMN, too, on the side, in the new role, and I was able to use that in the course as well.
That was really good. But, actually, I think that the workbook I learned the most in was probably the data modeling one because that was so completely new to me. I just didn’t know anything about that sort of area. That was a real insight into the kind of stuff that I would be able to offer later down the line.
Laura Brandenburg: What kind of example did you pick for the data modeling?
Emma Lander: That’s a great question. I was doing a project, it’s actually a project that I’m still working on at the moment where we are looking to move a process. There’s a process we’ve got in one department that’s just very manual and they use Excel spreadsheets and we’re looking to bring all of that into a tool that we use.
I’m having to do data dictionaries and stuff like that in order to get the requirements in place. I think it was that project that I used. I’m still working on it at the moment. Trying to do that project without having that knowledge, I think, would have been much harder for me to elicit the requirements as effectively.
Laura Brandenburg: I think that’s a great point. I used to be very set in my tools of loving the use case. You could use case those spreadsheets to death and figure it out, but then the data modeling just cuts through it in a different angle or a different perspective that you still need, probably, what the software’s going to do and those functional requirements and maybe the process maps as well but looking at it from the data perspective just gives you a whole different view.
It is such a powerful view and it can be so new to people as well. It’s either the one that people are like, “I’ve got this, cause I have a technical background and I’ve been doing database development,” or like, “Oh, this is new,” and it’s really eye-opening. I’m glad you had that experience.
You’ve had some big changes happening in your company and what the role is going to evolve into. Can you share a little bit more about that as well?
Emma Lander: I joined in February in the CSI space. What we’re looking at doing now in the company is to build out a process analysis function so we have a PMO world, if you like, that delivers the big projects, and they have a BA team. I work in the IT Department. We have lots of projects that come through, whether that’s from the business or IT projects themselves that don’t go through that PMO world.
We’re building out a process analysis function in the IT department and that is, essentially, using a lot of the tools and everything that we do in business analysis in order to gather the requirements and make sure we’re passing those onto the design teams. I’ve been asked to support in that space and that’s through the knowledge that I gained from doing that qualification is the reason I was asked to help out there, which is awesome.
Laura Brandenburg: That’s awesome. And so they saw what you were doing in the program and then wanted…what has your role been in that transition and the formation of that role?
Emma Lander: In terms of the CSI team, we will be delivering the process analysis side as well. I’m supporting my manager looking at what kind of documentation we’re going to need to produce, advising what inputs we’re going to need and where they need to come from, and then saying what kind of outputs we’ll be able to offer and who we will give those. Setting it up and getting the documents, templates together, and that kind of stuff.
Laura Brandenburg: Gotcha. That’s awesome. You mentioned it was because of your participation in the program. Do you have a sense? There are a few different parts of the program. There’s the learning material of learning how to do those things. There’s the application in the real world like you’ve talked about, so you’re gaining that experience and you’re showing that to your employer. And then of course, there’s the certification, the ACBA certification at the end. It could be all three, but what was the piece that your employer was drawn to, or pieces?
Emma Lander: I think it was just having the experience and the knowledge of the BA space and the tools and stuff that we were going to need to use. I guess being able to say that you’ve got a qualification in that area is always great, but I guess it’s not all just about the qualification itself. It’s about the experience that you get from doing it, and then the knowledge you can bring into that area. I think it’s kind of a mix.
Laura Brandenburg: It sounds like you’ve been continuing to apply what you’ve learned and taking on more projects like this as well.
Emma Lander: Definitely. I think at the moment I’m working across six or seven different projects. That’s more the projects that you can work through at different times.
Laura Brandenburg: Nice. So lots going on.
Emma Lander: Yeah, definitely.
Laura Brandenburg: For people who might be in this place that you were at the beginning of the year exploring multiple roles and wondering if this is a good fit, but then here you are 11 months later and you’re in the role and you’re expanding the role, what would you recommend to somebody looking to follow in a similar path as what you’re on?
Emma Lander: When I started doing my research, I did a lot of reading blog posts around the BA space and finding people on LinkedIn who were already in that world, and then following them and looking at the content that they shared. Finding podcasts as well to just start hearing from people who are in that space because there’s actually a surprising amount of stuff about business analysis, and there are lots of BA champions out there that are sharing a lot of good stuff.
That would be my first bit of advice. And then secondly, doing the BA Essentials Master Class that I did before doing the main qualification, that was brilliant in terms of me just being able to dabble in it a little bit just to get an idea of whether that was really the route I wanted to go down, did I really want to invest in the bigger qualification phase in terms of time and money because it’s, it’s a long course. It was so worth doing that first little one. In fact, I’m not sure I would have made the investment without being able to do that smaller course.
Laura Brandenburg: We see a lot of people go from one to the other. It makes a lot of sense.
Emma Lander: Yeah.
Laura Brandenburg: It gives you a really good sort of grinding of in the BA world. And if you do that course and you’re really not sure, then it’s good to have already done that and invested that little bit of time in it.
One of my favorite reviews of my book on Amazon is, “I got two chapters into this book and I realized a business analyst career is not for me.” And I was like, how awesome that you got that from buying a $25 book instead of spending years in a master’s program, which I’ve seen people do as well.
Emma Lander: Yeah. That’s it.
Laura Brandenburg: Put your energy out for the path that serves you. This is something you mentioned when you booked this interview with me, one of the results you’ve experienced is feeling really confident that this is the path versus that you need to go down multiple different paths. And even that aspiration to move into the champion role and be the one who is creating processes and leadership for others. Do you want to talk a little bit more about what you see as your future within business analysis?
Emma Lander: When I started the course, and you speak about the aspiring BA and then going through to the challenge of MBA work. I really just felt like I just would like to become an official BA. That’s sort of what my goal is. I just want to get to that point. I don’t have a BA title, but I feel like I’m certainly doing a lot of BA work.
I feel like I’m in that official BA realm and I’m definitely excited to take it further. How far I want to go? I’m not sure, but my goal at the moment is I would love to just be a senior BA in the team doing BA work and being comfortable and confident with the role and then sharing that with others who are looking to get into the space; kind of offering that when someone’s excited about it.
I’ve got a couple of teammates that I work with now that I didn’t really have that in the previous role. Having other BAs to talk to or process analyst, or whatever it is that we want to call them, is really good because you get to bounce ideas off people and stuff, and it’s nice having that team vibe. Being a senior BA and in a supportive role, I think, is what I’d really like to do next.
Laura Brandenburg: It’s always awesome when you achieve one goal that it opens up your vision for what’s next. I definitely would like the title. We say this a lot, but the title is irrelevant. It’s being in the role and it sounds you are an official BA well on your way to proven BA when you’re handling multiple projects, creating a role, and providing leadership in that role. You’re well on your way.
Last question. Thank you so much for your time. If you hadn’t invested in The Business Analyst Blueprint® and achieved your ACBA, where do you think you might be today?
Emma Lander: I don’t know. Maybe I would still be, thinking back to that previous role that I was in before I changed into this role and did that course, possibly, I’d still be wondering what on earth my role was and just trying to work it out by myself. I don’t know.
I’m so glad I had that conversation with that person who said, “It sounds like you’re doing business analysis,” because the only thing I knew I was doing was project management, and it was a route that I’ve explored and thought I really don’t want to do project management. When she spoke about the BA and I thought there are parts of this role I enjoy, but they don’t feel like project management roles, and suddenly discovered it was the BA side, that kind of led into that, I guess.
Where would I be? Not sure, but I’m glad I did make that investment.
Laura Brandenburg: Yes, and that the universe lined things up for you. I love that.
Emma Lander: Yeah, definitely.
Laura Brandenburg: Anything else you’d like to share before we close things off today?
Emma Lander: I don’t think so. Just to say, thank you for the course. I had an amazing time. All of the teachers are incredible. Everyone’s really helpful and it’s just a really nice course to do. You get to talk to your other participants and the teachers are on hand all the time, easy to contact. What you get out of it is just fantastic.
If there are people watching who are wondering whether to do it, I would just say absolutely go for it.
Laura Brandenburg: Thank you for that. I appreciate it. And thank you so much, Emma, for your time. I really appreciate you sharing your story and congratulations. It’s just a huge transformation in less than a year. It’s been an honor to learn a little bit more about that as well. Thank you.
Emma Lander: Thanks very much.
>>How to Learn the Foundational Business Analyst Skills (And Build Your Body of Formal Work Samples)
When you join The Business Analyst Blueprint® certification program, you’ll gain real-world experience in the industry-standard techniques and business analysis processes. You’ll create work samples vetted by experienced instructors and have the opportunity to become a credentialed business analyst as a recipient of the Applied Certification in Business Analysis™ (ACBA).